What is Unstructured Data?
According to Wikipedia, “Unstructured Data refers to information that either does not have a pre-defined data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner. Unstructured information is typically text-heavy, but may contain data such as dates, numbers and facts as well. This results in irregularities and ambiguities that make it difficult to understand using traditional computer programs as compared to data stored in fielded form in databases or annotated (semantically tagged) in documents.”
Companies have huge volumes of data in various directories, including sharing folders, project folders, departmental folders and more. Sometimes, these folders could be orphaned and sit idle without IT people’s knowledge. This could lead to redundant, unnecessary and inappropriate data, which could turn out to be dangerous. The reality is that most organizations simply do not understand how much unstructured data they have floating around in their networks, what types of data are stored in unstructured data stores, and who has access to this data. Unstructured data – and the inability to manage or even understand it – presents serious regulatory and legal risks.
While organizations do not hesitate to harvest information whenever and wherever it is available, they often do very little data management. Unmanaged and unstructured data can be a bad thing. It is a waste of organizational resources and can be the source of erroneous decisions that lead to financial losses and business disasters. To be useful, data needs to be managed, organized and presented in meaningful ways.
The cloud opens up immense possibilities for simple data management. Data organized in the cloud benefits organizations in three ways: profitability, efficiency and compliance.
Profitability — Organized data is revealing. It will help unveil information about customer leads or product opportunities. Organizations tracking such information can take advantage of these developments by reacting quickly and capturing the customer at the point at which the expressed need is greatest.
Efficiency — Cloud-based data management is automatic. That means that staff deployments can be reduced, making an organization more efficient.
Compliance — Clean, well-managed data is often legally compliant. It is available for efficient e-discovery, making data protection simpler. This results in savings in both the short run and the long run.
Let us look a little deeper into how cloud computing helps organizations manage their data. The cloud rids the organization of data silos. Data flow is redirected into the cloud repository for consolidation and structuring and, as a result, a single database emerges. This enforces discipline in data definitions, data type definitions and data storage logic.
De-duplication, Versioning and Stamps
De-duplication of data ensures that only one copy of the data is stored in the repository. Incremental and differential backups of information reduce the amount of space that is consumed by files and folders that are only partially or marginally revised. Versioning facilitates restoration of the latest version of the data. Date and time stamps help organizations track information historically, allowing them to institute archival policies that constantly and automatically bleed out data that is no longer in active use onto less expensive storage devices.
While some are quick to point to security concerns about the cloud, unstructured data is actually more dangerous than data stored in the cloud, as the previous discussion should make clear.